Panama City is the capital of Panama, which is located in Central America between Colombia and Costa Rica. Panama City offers the following points of interest for tourists and photographers;
- Panama Canal
- Casco viejo
- Panama viejo
- Bridge of the Americas and Centennial bridge
When most people think of Panama, they think of the Panama Canal or infamous banks and money laundering. In my opinion, Panama City should be famous too. Personally I found it more impressive than the canal with it’s huge skyscrapers and promenade around the bay. After eating all the buffets on the cruise over the past week, I decided to go for a run on the promenade, which is great for running and biking. The promenade also offers great views of the city (pictured above). The currency of Panama is US Dollars and the shopping is tax free, so, if you like shopping, it’s very easy to work out which are the bargains and they have lots of shopping malls here too.
Another interesting part of the city to visit is Casco Viejo. The original Panama City which was founded in 1519, was nearly completely destroyed by fire in 1671. In 1672, Casco Viejo was built by the Spanish, and the city you see today has grown around it. A lot of Casco Viejo is pedestrianized, which makes it a great place to walk around, with lots of restaurants and bars. As it’s old and full of colonial buildings, it makes for some great travel photography.
The famous Panama Canal probably tops most peoples ‘things to do list’ in Panama. Don’t expect to be able to take amazing pictures or see something really beautiful. You have to truly understand what is happening here to fully appreciate it. Before the canal was opened in 1914, these ships had to sail all the way down to Cape Horn and around South America to get from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific (or vice versa). The French started the project in 1881 but stopped due to a high mortality rate (Malaria and Yellow Fever) and funding problems. The Americans took over in 1904 and it was completed 10 years later, many people died constructing the canal.
The Gatun locks lift the ships up to the Gatun Lake, where they continue on a 48 mile, 6-8 hour sailing to the other side where the Pedro Miguel and Miraflores locks at the other end let them down (or vice versa). When I visited there were 2 active locks and a 3rd, bigger lock, was being constructed. This has now been completed and the modern super size vessels can now fit through the canal. The Panama Canal is a modern wonder of the world.
The bus station in Panama City is joined onto the modern shopping mall and a movie theater, Albrook Mall. I took an overnight bus leaving at 11pm, so in between checking out of the hotel and taking the overnight bus I decided to watch a couple of movies (in English) and get a haircut. I also got a chance to check out the tax free products, they do have fair prices.
There are 2 main bus companies serving San José, Costa Rica from Panama City, Tica Bus and Expreso Panama, both have good reputations. They stop at each side of the border and help you with border formalities. Upon entering Panama, my yellow fever certificate was never checked, but strangely on exiting Panama, they needed to see it before issuing an exit stamp, so have it ready.